Tweens ask for vagina surgery to 'look like Barbie'

Anatomically incorrect
Anatomically incorrect Photo: Getty Images

Young girls are asking for surgery to make their vaginas look like their Barbie dolls.

It's been claimed girls as young as 9-years-old were so worried about the way their vaginas looked that they were seeking labiaplasty. Labiaplasty is a surgical procedure that reshapes or shortens the lips of the vagina.

Leading UK adolescent gynecologist Dr Naomi Crouch told the BBC's Victoria Derbyshire show that she was concerned by the rising number of GPs referring young girls to her, and other doctors, to get the surgery.

"Girls will sometimes come out with comments like, 'I just hate it, I just want it removed', and for a girl to feel that way about any part of her body – especially a part that's intimate – is very upsetting," Dr Crouch said.

According to British health authority, the NHS, labiaplasty should not be performed on girls under the age of 18.

However, more than 200 girls under 18 had the surgery in the UK in 2015-16. More than 150 of them are believed to be under 15.

"Over the last few years where I might have seen one or two patients every few months, I am now seeing patients every week," Dr Crouch said.

"Typically they are mid-adolescents, they'd be 14 or 15, but I have seen girls who are younger – the youngest girl I've seen is 9."

She said none of the girls referred to her required the operation.

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"I find it very worrying that we are normalising cosmetic surgery," she said.

"The law is very clear; we shouldn't be performing operations and surgery that is irreversible on developing bodies for cultural reasons.

"The current culture is to have very small labia minora, for them to be tucked inside the outer vagina lips – I see it as the same thing.

"I don't think it should be performed, certainly not on girls under the age of 18. Over the age of 18 it should be seen for what it is – a cosmetic procedure which people may choose to buy."

One girl told the same TV show that she considered labiaplasty when she was just 14 and at the time was adamant she'd have it done when she turned 18.

"I guess I just picked up from somewhere that it wasn't neat enough, or tidy enough, and I think I wanted it to be smaller," she said.

"Sometimes people around me were watching porn and stuff and I just had this idea that it should be symmetrical and not sticking out, I thought that's what everyone else looked like.

"I didn't want to be abnormal, I didn't want to look different."

Now in her 20s, she is glad she didn't get the surgery.

"I'm totally glad I didn't get it done," she said.

"I didn't need it. I look totally normal. Completely and utterly normal."

Dr Paquita de Zulueta, who has been a GP for 30 years, told the BBC she'd also seen an increase in the number of girls seeking to have the surgery.

"I think what is really distressing is the disgust," she said.

"I remember a girl pointing at her genitalia and her nose wrinkling in disgust and saying: 'What's this?'

"There really doesn't seem to be a knowledge now of what one should look like, there seems to be a very narrow spectrum of what is acceptable.

"That the inner lips should be invisible, like a Barbie doll, but the reality is there is great variation in the size of the inner lips and some of them may protrude."